New pilot scheme means landlords must check if tenants are illegal immigrants
West Midlands landlords who fail to check if new tenants are illegal immigrants face a £3,000 fine, the new scheme stretches across Birmingham, Walsall, Sandwell, Dudley and Wolverhampton.
A landlord must now check the tenant’s identity and citizenship under the Home Office scheme. However many have argued the plans could cause discrimination against foreign immigrants and lead to a rise in rents.
The Home Office said following a review of the implementation in the West Midlands next spring, it expected to “continue with the phased introduction of checks across the UK next year”.
Landlords must now request to see a passport or a biometric residence permit under the Immigration Act 2014.
A Home Office spokeswoman said, “In most cases landlords will be able to carry out the checks themselves by asking to see the passport or permit and then photocopying (and keeping) it, without having to request a check on a person’s right to be in the UK via the www.gov.uk website.
“In a limited number of cases, such as where tenants don’t have their documents due to an ongoing Home Office application, landlords can request a check using the ‘right to rent’ tool on the website.”
If a passport cannot be produced then landlords can conduct further checks via a government website.
Jon Sparkes, Chief Executive of Crisis, a charity for single homeless people, stated, “It is hard enough for homeless people to find a place to live and we are concerned that asking them to prove their immigration status to landlords could make matters worse.
“Homeless people’s documents often get lost or stolen during periods of moving around or when sleeping rough and replacements can be expensive.
Mary Latham, West Midlands representative for the National Landlords Association (NLA) said, “As the lettings market is a very competitive arena, it is entirely conceivable that landlords could end up favouring ‘low-risk’ tenants or those whose legal right to reside in the UK is clear-cut.
“Therefore NLA advises all landlords to look at the Home Office’s guidance on unlawful discrimination as well as the Code of Practice, which includes a list of acceptable documents to use to verify a tenant’s immigration status.”